First Semiconductor-Free Microelectronic Device Built Using Metamaterials

Posted: Nov 9 2016, 5:45am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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First Semiconductor-Free Microelectronic Device Built Using Metamaterials
The designed semiconductor-free microelectronic device. Image courtesy of UC San Diego Applied Electromagnetics Group.
  • Semiconductor-free microelectronics are now possible, thanks to metamaterials

Science has finally come up with a novel kind of microchip that lacks any semiconductors in its makeup.

The vacuum-tube-powered computers of yore could actually be making a comeback. This is thanks to the solid work done by scientists hailing from UC San Diego.

The experts have managed to build a semiconductor-free laser-powered microchip. It basically harnesses free electrons in the same manner as occurs in vacuum tubes. This could lead to high quality solar panels and microelectronic devices that are able to carry more power.

Semiconductors made of silicon are great. They allow the integration of billions of transistors in a small space. Yet all this does not come without a price.

Electron speed is hindered thanks to the materials employed in the semiconductors. A huge pulse of energy is required to get the electrons flowing through the band gap. This is due to the insulation which silicon is famous for.

Vacuum tubes however are free of any such obstacles. That is because they easily give room to free electrons to either move or remain static through the space.

The issue arises when free electrons are required at nanoscale levels. This is a difficult proposal. Either high voltage or extreme temperatures are needed both of which are not feasible.

Also the measure of applying a powerful laser is impractical to say the least. So this glitch was fixed by making gold mushroom nano-structures. These had gold strips that were placed side by side with one another.

Via a low amount of voltage and a low energy laser, the electrons were disengaged from the gold. The outcome was that conductivity skyrocketed. It reached heights of 1000% which was necessary to allow for “on” and “off” states.

The structure acted like an optical switch. This contraption thus performed as a transistor, power amplifier and photoreceptor. This was in the exact same manner as has been seen in semiconductors.

The resistance was low and great bursts of energy could be handled anytime. While the current prototype is hardly ready for the market, it is proof of the fact that science is well on its way to innovate in some matters which were thought to have been finalized.

The next step is refining these superconductor-free microchips. This will take time since nothing comes for free. Work and dedication are required in order to gain ground in this precision-based field.

The work was published on November 4th in the journal Nature Communications.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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